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Up Close & Personal
name: Jan Klapka
education: Agriculture University Prague 1984
family & marital staus: Married to Jirina Klapkova
number of jumps: 7,150
years in Sport: 39
teams: Mlada Boleslav - Alt 90th - Blue Time - Bad Boys
favorite competition: FAI Indoor World Cup 2015
funniest moment in skydiving: Each Jump
skydiving mentor(s): Dan BC, Shannon Pilcher, David and Andy Grauwels, Pete Alum, Steve Hamilton, Robert Chromy, Ivan Coufal, Kurt Gaebel
favorite book(s): Above All Else – Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld
favorite music: Karel Kryl
favorite movie(s): Pretty Woman
favorite place: Skydive Empuriabrava
Where will you be ten years from now? Share skills with new generation
best kept secret: ???
""Never Say Never""
There are many passionate skydivers who have dedicated almost their whole lives to the sport, not only to become a world champion, and Jan Klapka from the Czech Republic is one of them.
I met him personally first time in 2006 when he visited DeLand with his 4-way team, the Bad Boys. He had been in the sport for several years by then, as he made his first jump in 1979 when he was 18 years old, and he had his first 4-way team in 1986.
We had been in touch before, and it was quite obvious that his heart was at the same place where my own one was. He was dedicated to skydiving and 4-way competition.
Not many people knew by then that there is 4-way competition in the Czech Republic - and there wasn't too much. Jan Klapka changed this situation almost single-handedly, and his country has become a relevant player in the Formation Skydiving competition world by now.
The Czech Republic has between 10 and 15 active 4-way teams who compete on a regular basis at their own indoor and outdoor meets. The Bad Boys is the national 4-way team and performs at a 15-average outdoor and 20-average indoor level. They are the official FAI Indoor World Cup champions of 2014 and are posting the highest AAA and AA Class scores of the Indoor Cloud League month by month.
The skydiving center in Prostejov hosted the World Championship of Formation Skydiving 2014 and the Hurricane Factory in Prague welcomed teams to the first FAI World Indoor Skydiving Championships in October 2015.
He has set up a perfect 4-way world in his country, where teams have a regular competition schedule at the Hurricane Factory during the winter season and at different Czech drop zones throughout the summer.
The monthly Indoor Cloud League events support the recruiting efforts of new teams and the indoor training for everybody. There is no lack of 4-way activities in the Czech Republic now.
It takes a lot of passion and energy to maintain a project like this, and Jan Klapka has both. He is supported by his skydiving family, with his wife Jirina Klapkova training and competing with the Czech national team in 4-way women, the CZ Ladies, and his son Jakub Klapka, member of the talented Flying Circus lineup. His daughter Klara Sotonova trains and competes in 4-way, as well.
Jan Klapka started jumping in 1979 when he was 18 years of age. There was only one competitive skydiving event in Czechoslovakia in the 80's. It was a multi-discipline competition with accuracy, 100-meter swimming, 50-meter shooting and 3000-meter running, and it was surely not what Jan Klapka was dreaming about. He wanted Formation Skydiving from the very beginning.
The performance was evaluated only from the ground, as government restrictions did not allow the use of a camera.
The "Velvet" or "Gentle" Revolution of Czechoslovakia in 1989 brought positive changes for the Czech skydiving community, as well. The teams could now use a camera in freefall, and Jan Klapka's team bought one which they eventually used for the first time in a competition in 1993.
However, he remembers that that his team did not really know how to use it and that they had to discover the procedure with their own trial and error experiences. The knowledge was kept secret:
"The atmosphere in our country was crazy. We did not share our knowledge and experiences with each other."
These experiences at the beginning of his competition career might have brought him to the opposite position 25 years later. Jan Klapka is now probably the biggest source of knowledge and experience in his country and shares everything with the whole skydiving community.
The change finally came in 2001 when team "Crazy", the Czech national 4-way team at the FAI World Meet 2001 in Spain, began to open up and share information and experiences with others.
Jan Klapka, Jaroslav Smitka, Stepan Tuma and Mirek Slansky joined forces with two Crazy members (Martin Kraibich, Pavel Stepanek) and create team "Blue Time" in 2002. Ivan Coufal was coaching the team, and Blue Time competed for the Czech Republic at the FAI World Meet 2003 in France.
Jan Klapka visited DeLand for the first time in 2003 when he attended the PIA Symposium in Jacksonvile. He met Solly Wiliams and Robert Chromy and was inspired enough to organize his first training camp for 4-way teams in 2004. Baby Blue was a result of the efforts, which was the first Czech all-female lineup, with his wife Jirina, his daughter Klara, Hana Opalkova, Renata Heranova and Renata Mazelova in the lineup.
At the same trime, his own team Blue Time fired Jan Klapka due to his age: "They said that I am too old for skydiving..." Blue Time still won the national championships in 2004 with an 8.4 average and then discontinued. It was the same event where Jan Klapka competed for the first time with his new team, the Bad Boys, who were his own former AFF students. It was a 2.4 average start...
Czech 4-way teams began to train on a reglar basis, and several trips for winter training at Bodyflight Bedford helped the progression and proved the value of indoor training. Finally, the Czech 4-way community got their own wind tunnel in Prague when the Hurricane Factory opened its doors in 2011.
Jan Klapka has an education in agriculture and has been running a bakery in Prague. However, he eventually also turned to skydiving in his professional life. He and his friend Vit Zurek started the "Parashop" in 1997, to sell parachuting equipment and share information of the world's manufacturers. He said that he had to deal with a different "iron curtain" for seven years before he could launch the Parashop: "Now we will celebrate 20 years of being in business in 2017."
Jan Klapka has all tandem and AFF ratings and runs his own skydiving school, as well, while he is still training and competing with the Bad Boys. It does not seem like he is too old for a lot of skydiving activities...
His heart and soul is still mainly in one specific area of the skydiving world, and his own mission statement for the skydiving school makes that quite clear: "The main target of this school is to care about beginner skydivers and show them the sport's possibilities, then create new 4-teams and help them grow up..."